Choosing a Workout Program That Works For You

Coach Kate, BS, ACE, ACSTH

Kate Bielefeld is a personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. She is an ICF certified coach practitioner by the Certified Coaches Alliance and the Approved Coaching Specific Training Hours program. She has a bachelor of science degree in exercise science and is a successful weight loss and behavior change coach. This powerlifting, coffee-chugging, mom of five has an expert knack for unlocking the untapped potential of the women she coaches. She’s helped hundreds of women reach their health and fitness goals so that they can live healthier, happier, and more fulfilled lives.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that there’s an exercise workout program out there that will help you lose weight fast and without doing any hard work. 

But after working as a coach for more than 10 years, I’ve seen how choosing a workout program and best exercise routine can help a client meet her goals. 

So, let’s talk about how you can choose the right exercise program in which every workout routine challenges you to get the best results you seek.

What Factors Matter When Choosing a Workout Program?

Put some thought into how you need to start working out! Trust me, it will save you wasted time and finances in the end if you don’t just run out and buy one of the most popular exercise workout programs they are advertising on late-night TV.

You’ve done that before, and now those workout DVDs are getting dusty sitting in storage because you bought them but never got around to building your buns of steel. 

Stop fooling yourself! 

Consider the following guide when planning for your unique exercise fitness program.

Fitness goals

Do you want to lift heavy things, run long races, make cool shapes with your body, just feel better, look good naked? 

What are your best personal fitness goals? Not your mom’s, not your sister’s, not your husband’s, YOUR best personal fitness goals! 

Time constraints

What time do you have? What time can you CREATE? 

Seriously, if you have a goal you need to create time to work at it. Put a pen to paper and figure it out. 

Put your best plan on paper. Not only does it look pretty, but writing it down helps you commit to it. And that’s the trick. You also have to DO IT! No exercise plan works if you don’t work the plan.

Family situation

Kids, hubby, aging parents, pets, you name it, what are your obligations? Because they can throw a wrench in even the most well-intended best fitness exercise program.

How will you minimize your risk of being tempted away from your personal health workout exercise goals?

Work hours/breaks

This one is my favorite! SO many times we pretend that our 9-5 is the reason we can’t reach our best workout goals. It takes up all of our time, drains us of our energy, and causes WAY too much unnecessary stress. 

But have you put any thought to how you can creatively use that time to simultaneously work on YOU? 

Bathroom break? Do 20 squats. Lunch break? Take an easy walk. Sitting at your desk? Complete a few of the best Chairs to You workouts available in the LadyBoss® Pocket Personal Trainer

Access to facilities/equipment

Do you have a gym nearby and time to commute? If not, you might need to consider a workout program you can do from home.

Does your home or gym have the exercise equipment you need for your program? If not, how can you make adjustments to still work toward the same best results?

Types of Fitness Programs

Training the cardiovascular system for endurance can be done through various types of movement and steps in which your heart rate is elevated to 60-80% maximum heart rate for a duration of 20 minutes or greater. 

Activities like walking, running, cycling, swimming, rowing or any combination of these would be considered exercise training options for cardiorespiratory endurance.

Additional workout training options for these exercise activities would include continuous, fartlek, and interval programming.

For a cardio program of continuous training, you might choose to walk at a steady pace continuously for 30 minutes every day during your lunch break at work. This activity would be an example of a cardiorespiratory endurance program. Similarly, you might choose to use the recumbent bike at your local gym to pedal consistently at a set intensity and time.

For a cardio program of Fartlek Training, you decide the duration and intensity of the activity. Runners World describes fartlek to be “unlike continuous training and interval work. Fartlek is unstructured and alternates between moderate to hard exercise efforts with easy efforts throughout. After a warm-up, you play with speed by running at faster efforts for short periods of time (to that tree, to the sign) followed by easy-effort running to recover. The goal is to keep it free-flowing so you’re untethered to the watch or a plan, and to run at harder efforts but not a specific pace.”

For a cardio program of Interval Training, you train with consistent intervals of high and low intensity for a decided period of time greater than 20 minutes for cardio programs. 

For example, you might row for an easy pace of 2 minutes, followed by a 1-minute row at an increased intensity and then continue alternating this 2 minutes of easy/1 minute of increased intensity for the duration of your exercise workout routine. 

You could complete 7 rounds in 21 minutes, not including your warm-up and cool-down steps.

For more cardio endurance training options try one of these fun class exercise activities at a local gym: dance fitness, spinning, or kickboxing, just to name a few!

Strength Training Programs

Strength training offers a wide variety of possible combinations and steps for training whether you are in the gym or at home. 

As long as you complete the exercises and steps with the proper form and load for you, strength training is an overall key health component for everyone! Many women (and men) sacrifice proper lifting form and exercise technique in order to lift a heavier amount of weight or complete more repetitions after muscle fatigue.

For my clients, the easy answer to this is to send a video of themselves completing the exercise routine or send me a quick message asking how to do it. 

If you aren’t working with a coach, *ahem* we are amazing!

But if you aren’t yet, be sure to seek help from a trained professional at your gym or use the LadyBoss® Pocket Personal Trainer to watch video explainers before performing the exercise routine.

Free Weights: Barbells and Dumbbells

Strength training exercise programs often incorporate a delicate balance of weight training using both barbells and dumbbells. 

An individual’s training program goals will dictate the training frequency, intensity, exercise types, loads, number of sets and repetitions, and rest intervals. 

For example, you might witness a bodybuilding competitor focusing on dumbbell exercises with lower weights, performing more repetitions. Or you might see a powerlifter focusing on lifting heavy loads for as few as 3 repetitions at a time before resting for up to  3 minutes. 

That’s why you should talk with a trained professional to help you choose which strength training program will best help you reach your goals.

Barbell exercise workout programs are awesome for gym-goers as well as those of us working out at home. With just a long bar (usually weighing 45 pounds, although some gyms have fancy alternative options that might weigh 25-55 pounds) and some weighted plates, you can execute an entire strength training program!

The advantage of barbell training: “no muscle left behind!” Barbells are classified as free weights, meaning they are “free moving.” For you, that means that in addition to working your booty during a squat, you’ll also engage all sorts of stabilizing muscles at the same time!

Dumbbell exercise programs offer tons of variety for strength training exercise programs. They are often incorporated into boot camp and cross-fit type workouts because they allow each participant to choose the appropriate weight for their individual needs.

Dumbbell training workout programs are useful for targeting specific muscles and muscle groups as well as working on muscle imbalances from one side of the body to the other.

Fixed Weights: Smith Machines, Cable Machines, Hydraulic Resistance Exercise Machines

Gyms will typically offer a wide variety of muscle isolation exercise machines. These machines are a huge advantage to someone new or inexperienced because they help remove some of the risk associated with poor lifting form or exercise technique by providing a set motion for the user to perform an exercise routine.

Smith machines have a fixed range of motion for the barbell which might eliminate the natural movement pattern and steps for exercises performed with a free-weight barbell, but this creates security and reduces (not eliminates) risk of injury from improper lifting form and best technique. Because the smith machine has a fixed range of motion and steps, it does substantially reduce the need for stabilizing muscle recruitment. But the increased safety is worth the trade-off! On the flip side, this also means that you can train your targeted muscle to failure or near failure without risk of the stabilizing muscles exhausting first and impeding your exercise training efforts for your larger muscle groups.

Fixed Resistance Exercise Machines look big and scary to most new gym-goers fearful of looking silly trying to set up and use them correctly. Most machines will have one or two exercises and steps you can perform. However scary these machines might look, they are the safest choice for anyone new to strength training. They also are the ideal best choice for isolating specific muscles while providing adequate resistance to the muscle and support at the joints.

Cable machines include a weight stack attached to a cable that winds through a series of pulleys to provide steady resistance during an exercise routine. 

Cable machines make it easy to change between exercises, steps and resistances quickly. They also make it convenient to isolate and train a muscle or muscle group using steady resistance steps with proper form through the full range of motion. 

Most cable machine exercises can be replicated using resistance tubing. However, the resistance of the tubing changes from easy to harder as the resistance band is stretched. 

When using cable machines, the resistance is constant throughout the entire movement of the exercise steps. Both, change in resistance and constant resistance, can be an advantage to your strength training exercise program depending on your training needs.


Bodyweight strength training programs can be incredibly effective in building muscle. The key to a solid bodyweight strength training exercise program is proper bodyweight progression. The LadyBoss® Pocket Personal Trainer provides a workout by workout progression of bodyweight training exercises and steps. 

To supplement your bodyweight training exercise program try one or all of these easy to find pieces of equipment: yoga mat, step or box, pull-up bar, TRX strap, or Bosu ball.

More fun equipment options for strength training programs include tires and sledgehammers, sandbags, medicine, and slam balls and kettlebells! From experience, everyday household items can add resistance to get you started. Try soup cans, water bottles, even pets or small children!

Flexibility Programs

Flexibility programs can reduce the risk of injury, alleviate back pain and overcome balance problems by engaging in exercise activities that lengthen and stretch the muscles. Maintaining well-stretched muscles can improve athletic performance and allow movement through a full range of motion. 

It’s good to note that experts have stopped recommending stretching before exercise. Instead, it’s best to first warm-up for 5-10 minutes by performing movements and steps that elevate your heart rate slightly and increase blood flow to your muscles prior to stretching them.

Flexibility programs include yoga, pilates, tai chi, and post-workout stretching routines.

How to Pick the Right Program

Picking and choosing a workout program that is right means knowing what your goals are, what program type it will take (or a combination of programs) to reach your goal, and what resources you have available to complete the training exercise program. You also want to be able to add exercises and steps without causing pain or injury.

If you still aren’t sure, pop into our LadyBoss Facebook Community where you might catch one of us coaches LIVE to answer your questions!


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